RAYE on Escapism.'s rise on the Official Singles Chart and the possibility of her first Number 1: "This is proof, let your artists decide what's best for them"

The pop artist born Rachel Keen is closer than ever to her chart-topping breakthrough...this time, undeniably on her own terms.

Without really meaning to, we start our conversation with Raye by making her tear up. 

"Even answering these questions is making tears fall from my eyes," she explains to us over the phone, sounding full up of a cold in the closing chart days before Christmas in 2022. "But that's how much this would mean to me, you know?"

Oh, don't worry Raye. We know. The focus of these tears, of course, is the success of her latest single, Escapism. A strange, almost malformed electro-pop record featuring experimental singer 070 Shake, Escapism.'s power lies in all the ways that it precisely doesn't conform to expectations.

Now, Raye's paen to pain has endured throughout the Christmas period and, coming out the other side stronger, is currently on track to secure Raye her first-ever UK Number 1 single. 

It's been a long time coming, for an artist who has endured much to get to this point; cancelled singles, shelved albums and a dramatic change in circumstance that means her upcoming debut album, My 21st Century Blues, will be her first as an independent artist. And so, many are hoping, this Number 1 will be too.

MORE: Raye's Official Charts history in full

But to speak to Raye herself about this possibility, she's being understandably hesitant to kickstart the celebrations right yet, picking the right words to describe the indescribable. 

"I just expect nothing," she says, "so that anything is a bonus. It it happens...I don't even [want to go there]. I will cry tears of joy. I'm trying not to think about it."

From its release last October, however, Escapism. (a single so singular we struggle to imagine it being released a single under a major label) has beaten the odds. It's conquered TikTok, it's got Raye back on the radio...and all on her own terms, in her own words. As a wise woman (Taylor Swift) once said, hell was the journey but it brought me heaven. 

And these struggles, through circumstance and ego, are an intrinsic part of Escapism., and Raye openly discusses why.

"This flippin' system," she said, "that made me feel like I was so mediocre and so under-achieving and such a disappointment for so long. This just proof. Let your artists decide what's best for their futures and what's best to represent them. And support it! My goodness."

Likening Escapism.'s climb up the Official Singles Chart to "the most incredible Tortoise and the Hare story," it's also made Raye sit back and take stock, to a time where were artistry was being diluted into achieving "quick hits, quick hits...but good things take time."

Ultimately, Escapism. is the ultimate vindication that all along, Raye knew what was right for her. After all, no-one else could have released this single, in this moment. 

"You have to trust [the songs]," Raye tells us, sounding emboldened. "And not be afraid to do something different."

Different, after all, is good. Different just might re-set the trajectory of your career...and net you a Number 1 single in the process too. 

Escapism. is out now via Human Re Sources.

Check out where the single lands in this week's Official Singles Chart from 5.45pm on OfficialCharts.com and BBC Radio 1. 

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